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The Air Force Made Me Do It

Sherry Harris
from Northern Virginia

Being an Air Force spouse had a lot to do with how I ended up writing. Having a regular career is difficult when you are moving all of the time. Climbing a corporate ladder is next to impossible.

We were stationed in Dayton, Ohio at Wright-Patterson AFB when I spotted a short story contest in the local newspaper. I thought why not and started writing.  I realized right away the story was bigger than the parameters of the contest. And I set off on my writing journey moving it with me from Dayton, to Monterey, to Fort Walton Beach, Florida, Northern Virginia, Bedford, Massachusetts and back to Northern Virginia.

During that time I worked on the craft of writing by attending conferences. At one I met fellow Air Force wife and author Sara Rosett, whose protagonist is a military spouse. I  joined critique groups and wrote and wrote and revised. It eventually led to my current series. Tagged for Death features Sarah Winston, a former Air Force spouse, and is set in the fictional town of Ellington, Massachusetts and the very real Hanscom Air Force Base. I’m excited to use a part of my life that I loved so much in my novels.

I decided to ask two other military spouses how the military influenced their writing careers. I met Kim Stokely when our kids were in the same first grade class while we were stationed at Naval Post Graduate School in Monterey, California. I met Gwen Hernandez recently. She taught a class on Scrivener offered through the New England Chapter of Sisters in Crime. I read her bio and found out she was an Air Force wife and also lived near me in Northern Virginia.

Kim: Newly married to a naval officer, I found myself alone 275 days of our first year stationed in Virginia Beach, VA. I decided to pursue a Master’s degree in dramatic communication as a way to keep my sanity. My advisor warned me at my graduation that I needed to find ways to be creative even as I moved around and started a family. He suggested I try writing as an outlet. I got the idea for Woman of Flames, soon to be released on, from a play I performed while working toward my degree. I jotted down notes for the story for over a decade before I finally had the time to research my subject and time period. It took another year to write the first draft. Our various duty stations gave me ample opportunity to see the country and I’ve used several of our homes as settings for my novels including Monterey, CA; Saratoga Springs, NY and Omaha, NE. Although I’m working on a fantasy trilogy now, I’m still using my different memories to inspire my settings.

Gwen: I didn’t start writing because my husband is in the military—though his income stability didn’t hurt—but it’s the perfect job for someone who’s always on the move. Assuming you can actually get paid for your writing, there’s no more worrying about lack of career advancement or finding employment in each new city. I can take my work anywhere in the world and set my own hours. Definitely a plus when it comes to reducing the stresses of relocating and caring for my family.

And since I write romantic suspense—often featuring military, or former military, heroes and heroines—it’s nice to have a built-in resource at home. If my husband doesn’t know something, one of the many friends we’ve made over the years probably does, or can help me find an expert. Plus, having lived in and visited so many parts of the world, I don’t always have to set my books where I currently live to be able to write credibly about an area.

It’s not easy earning a living as a writer, but if it’s something you love to do, I can’t imagine a better career for a military spouse.

How has your life influenced your career choice?

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